Ever since Nigeria introduced Digital Citizenship in Africa when it hosted the first African Digital Citizenship summit in July 2017, there have been calls that Digital Citizenship should grow from being just a summit to a state policy.
Equally, trending are talks that Digital Citizenship, which refers to safe, savvy and responsible use of the internet, especially the social media should be included in the school curriculum.
It is hoped that digital citizenship education will curb the various shades of cyber criminality spreading in Nigeria. Just a year old, Anchor University is already ranked one of the best private universities in Nigeria for its efforts at promoting digital education and meeting up with international standards.
In this interview with Ladesope Ladelokun and Franca Sulem-Yong, Vice Chancellor of Anchor University , Prof Afolayan Joseph- Olasehinde spoke extensively on digital citizenship and its future in Nigeria.
How would you rate the level of digital literacy in Nigeria?
By my own assessment of Nigerian institutions, in terms of technology, there is what we call the mad rush at technology. As far as social media is concerned, there is a high level of subscription to it in Nigeria. But how positive it is used is another issue.
We equally observe a difference between knowing how to use technology and using it for the right purpose. A number of schools abroad have found ways to implement digital citizenship as a subject or course. Do you think the time is ripe for digital citizenship in Nigerian Schools?
We think it is the right time. That is why we have signed up for a field known as digital humanities in our school. Through this field of study, we teach our students how to use technology and social media positively.
As you hinted earlier, most people seem not to think through before posting on social media. Many of our youths are yet to draw the line between what should be posted in public and what should be kept in private.
That is why it is important to get people educated and enlightened on digital citizenship. This explains why our university is trying to link up with one of the Universities in Canada to promote positive digital use not only as a concept but also as a practice.
If digital Citizenship or digital humanities is instituted as a course, which form would you advise it to take? Should it be a course under computer science or a field on its own?
You see, for now, in any university before you introduce any course, you have to go through NUC…..a benchmark of courses to be run. But at least, at our own level, we want to introduce it to raise awareness in each faculty.
There are processes that we need to go through before it would become a course in the university. It is not automatic. But we believe a course like Digital Humanities should definitely be under the faculty of humanities.
But because digital issues are somehow linked to computing, there will be interactions between the departments and because of the communication aspect, a field like Mass Communication may be intertwined with it. But digital humanities should definitely be under the faculty of humanities by virtue of its name but it remains an inter-disciplinary field by virtue of its nature.
How would you advise government to come in as far as instituting Digital Citizenship is concerned? Should Digital Citizenship Education become key on Government agenda now, given that the abuse of social media and technology is becoming a norm in our society?
Considering the consequences we see today and with reference to any thing technology- based.I strongly advise Government to include digital Citizenship in the curriculum.
By so doing, government would go a long way to curb all tech related ills and cyber criminality. So I strongly recommend that Government should encourage Universities to include digital citizenship in their programs.
Apart from the advocacy that the media is currently doing, what can stakeholders like you do to ensure that the concept and practice of digital citizenship is deeply rooted in Nigeria?
Like I said earlier, one of the ways we are working towards that is to institute Digital Humanities as a field of study in our University and the program would start effectively soon.
That is one of the best ways we can contribute to enlighten our students and the citizens of our country. This course would inculcate in them knowledge on the merits of digital citizenship. That is the strongest advocacy we can do for now.
At what level of education would you advise digital citizenship to be taught?
At all levels. Everyone needs it. Even in Primary school, pupils are exposed to social media nowadays. So it is very important that digital citizenship be taught because it concerns all technology users.
We need to inform all of them about what they need to know how to use technology smartly and responsibly. Of course, the language of instruction would differ at different levels of education. It has to be taught in appropriate ways at the different levels of education. Communication should be contextual at different levels.
In countries in the western world,we see their youths very active in selecting their leaders.The youths have used social media and technology to their advantage to campaign for the leaders they want. We have, for instance, a young leader in France. In the next election, do you see digital citizens in Nigeria playing a great role in the selection of the next leader?
To some extent,it may or may not work.But from the records we have in Nigeria in terms of politicking and election system,things are not as straightforward. We still have a lot to do.
Societies in the western world are more organised and more enlightened. We talk about elections but in some places in Nigeria,people doubt if there were any elections.The results are often doubtful.
Therefore,we need to lay emphasis on raising awareness.Government has to do a lot of enlightenment campaign to expand the possibility of a positively digital Nigeria.
Activities like this interview we are having now can go a long way to inform and advocate for digital citizenship.The media should play a key role and carry government along in its advocacy campaign. In Nigeria,the factors that drive our ambition is different from other countries and government has to consider that.
Where do you see the future of Digital Citizenship education in Nigeria in the next five years?
My field of study requires that we do a lot of predictions. So basing myself on the theory of probability and understanding development in Nigeria, I would not be surprised if we outrun those who started it.We are crazy when it comes to development and trying new things and we have great minds in this country. When people are properly directed, they can do extra ordinarily.